Hard To Lose Weight? 5 Ways Our Mindset Can Get In The Way
When we’re trying to lose weight, many of us go on a diet. However, just addressing what we’re eating is very simplistic, and doesn’t necessarily address our mindset- our beliefs, thoughts and attitudes in relation to food, eating and dieting, and our underlying motivations to eat. There are some commonly held beliefs and attitudes that can make it hard to lose weight- these are usually deeply ingrained and can get in the way of our intentions to eat more healthily or cut down on our food intake.
1. Black And White Thinking
Many people find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of being either on or off a diet, making it hard to lose weight. They might start the diet with good intentions but they might believe they have to eat perfectly and not deviate at all from the diet for it to be worth doing. They set themselves high standards and attempt to avoid the foods they love. The problem with restricting foods is that it can lead us to wanting those food even more, even rebellion, and we start fighting our body and brain as we attempt to resist. One example is a packet of biscuits, where someone on a diet refuses to eat a single biscuit with the belief that ‘If I eat one I’ll have to finish the packet’. For many of us, denying ourselves foods we enjoy is unsustainable and before we know it we’ve given up the diet. Some people feel they’ve blown it if they deviate even just once from their diet, causing them to give up for the rest of the day- for example, ‘I ate a piece of cake earlier, I’ve totally blown it so will start again tomorrow’. Instead of putting that one incident behind them and continuing with good intentions for the rest of the day, they might completely write off the rest of that day. Another example of the black and white mindset is being ‘good’ all week and then completely overindulging at weekends, or starving before a holiday and then overeating when on holiday. This can undo all the effort we’ve made whilst following a diet, and this is why diets can easily fail, particularly overly strict diets with rigid rules. This is also why many people get caught in a trap of yo-yo dieting.
2. Excuses To Eat And Entitlement Beliefs
Without realising it, many of us probably use various excuses to eat in order to help justify consuming something we think we shouldn’t be eating. If we regularly use the same excuses week by week, we end up sabotaging ourselves, making it hard to lose weight. Common excuses we might use include ‘It’s Friday night so I’m having this’, or ‘I’ve had a really stressful day so I deserve this’, or ‘I can’t let it go to waste’. Other people might also sabotage your efforts by providing excuses to encourage you to eat such as ‘Oh go on, how often do you eat it?’ or ‘We’ve got to buy these desserts because they’re on special offer!’. As eating is such a social activity for many of us, it’s easy to feel we’re missing out when others are tucking in. Some people hold entitlement beliefs to a greater extent than others, whereby a fear of missing out might cause them to eat when they’re not at all hungry, for example, ‘If you’re having a cake I’ll have to join you’.
3. Obesogenic Beliefs and Values
We might hold certain values about food and eating, some of which may stem from messages we heard in childhood. Such values can prevent us from sticking to our good intentions to eat less or eat more healthily, for example, ‘You want to enjoy yourself on holiday surely?’, or ‘It’s not worth going to a restaurant if you can’t stuff yourself silly’. Our values might also be linked to providing food for others, such as ‘I’m not buying food that the children won’t eat’, ‘I have to have them in the house for the children’, or ‘My husband likes to have a bottle of wine with our evening meal’. Many of us feel a need to clear the plate, or eat all the leftovers, and this may be because as children we were told not to waste food, so that we carry with us into adulthood the message ‘I can’t waste food’.
4. Unhelpful Attitudes About Dieting And Healthy Eating
Some of us might hold certain unrealistic views or beliefs about dieting and healthy eating that might hinder our progress and make it hard to lose weight, perhaps because our expectations of ourselves are too high. For example, having a ‘this has to hurt’ mentality might mean that we overly deprive ourselves of food, or we do a gruelling exercise programme, both of which are unlikely to be enjoyable and therefore not sustainable. Some people might be of the opinion that to lose weight they have to be hungry all the time, only to find their willpower running out after just a few days. We might have a tendency to carry out compensatory behaviours, for example ‘I broke my diet today so I’ll starve myself tomorrow’. It’s very common to focus on what the weighing scales says, focusing on weight loss and not actually learning to eat better quality food, which can provide more nutrients for the body as well as help to satisfy your appetite better, thereby helping you to eat less overall.
5. Unhelpful Attitudes Towards Eating
Certain beliefs about eating can create barriers to healthier eating and make it hard to lose weight and keep it off long-term. For example, believing that the only way to satisfy hunger is to have a large amount of food, which may lead to frequent overeating, or the belief that people who control their food intake are boring, or that you can’t have a good time if you have to watch your food intake when you go out. Some people might feel they have a long way to go in getting to their goal weight, and if they have a history of unsuccessful weight loss they might lack the motivation to monitor their food intake. Unfortunately this can lead to overeating and ongoing weight problems, for example, ‘I’m fat anyway so what difference will this dessert make’.
Awareness Is Power
Becoming more aware of our thoughts, beliefs and behaviours is the first step to positive change, and so exploring your own mindset by noticing and monitoring your thought patterns, addressing your current beliefs and determining their accuracy or validity and then working on adopting more helpful thought patterns, beliefs and attitudes can be a really valuable exercise in helping you to identify the underlying factors that have been getting in the way of your good intentions to eat more healthily or lose weight- and, importantly, to have a better relationship with food long-term. It really is possible to create a more helpful mindset that can enable you to reach your health and weight loss goals- all it takes is a bit of self-reflection, patience and practise.
If you feel you could benefit from my Mindful Eating service, give me a call (Emma Randall) on 07961 423120, or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m based in Lightwater, Surrey. Skype sessions are also available.
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